This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Correction: Due to a production error, a draft of the story "Panel OKs bill ending low tuition for illegals" appeared in Friday's newspaper rather than the final version. The final version of the story is available at http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_3470950.
Without allowing public comment, the House Education Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would rescind the right of undocumented students who graduate from Utah high schools to pay resident tuition rates at the state's colleges.
"I hate this bill; I hate this issue," said Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem. "But I am going to hold my nose and vote for it. It's heartbreaking, but America is not the land of opportunity for those who come here illegally."
He joined most other Republicans on the committee in voting 9-5 to allow HB 7 to advance to the House floor. Democratic Reps. Carol Spackman Moss, James Gowans, Duane Bourdeaux and Lawanna Shurtliff voted against the bill, as did Republican Rep. Kory Holdaway.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Glen Donnelson, R-Ogden, would repeal a 3-year-old law that he believes was adopted prematurely in Utah and may expose the state to a lawsuit filed by out-of-state students who argue they should not be forced to pay nonresident tuition rates if undocumented students are allowed to pay resident rates.
Rep. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, the committee's chairwoman, asked those in the standing-room-only crowd to sign their names and state their positions on the legislation instead of testifying because she said the committee already took comments on three previous occasions. About a third of those in attendance oppose HB7.
Dayton did, however, allow testimony from attorneys, including University of Missouri law professor Kris Kobach and Assistant Utah Attorney General Bill Evans, and from Kara Alexander, a University of Utah graduate who believes she was unfairly required to pay out-of-state tuition.
Kobach, the lead attorney in a legal challenge of Kansas law similar to Utah's statute, urged lawmakers to repeal Utah's law because he believes it violated federal law.
"The federal law requires that all citizens . . . be given access to in-state tuition by the state that provides this benefit to illegal aliens," he said. "Utah is exposed to a massive potential lawsuit and that exposure grows every year that law remains in effect."
Evans countered that Utah's law is valid because it is not based on residency. Rather, it offers resident tuition rates to graduates of Utah high schools and that benefit is equally available whether the student is a resident of Utah or not.
His view is endorsed by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Evans noted.
Several lawmakers spoke against the measure, and also protested the decision not to take public comment.
"We are dealing with human beings, we ought to remember that," Gowans said, adding, "If [the Utah law] is such a violation after four years, why hasn't the federal government stepped in?"
Members of Utahns for the American Dream (UAD), a coalition organized to oppose HB7, also were unhappy that no one opposing the bill was allowed to speak. The coalition has urged lawmakers to maintain the law because it provides life-altering opportunity for children who are in Utah through no fault of their own.
Michael Clara , spokesman for Utah Hispanic/Latino Legislative Task Force, said he and others were denied their right to petition the government. "It's ironic that an out-of-state resident [Kobach] was allowed to take up so much time and that in-state residents didn't have an opportunity to address their representatives," he said. "We are equally disappointed the committee voted in favor of HB7."
Draper Republican LaVar Christensen , the panel's vice chairman, called the 2002 law a "moving target" passed in anticipation of a federal statue called the Dream Act, which never passed.
"I think about the children who come across the border for a chance at a better life," Christensen said.
Nonetheless, he expressed support for HB7, saying lawmakers have an obligation to do what is best for the state. "I can't do everything my heart wants to do."